Normani is the new face of Cracker Jack — excuse us — Cracker Jill!
“I was in gymnastics since I was 4, and I wanted to go to the Olympics,” Normani tells PEOPLE. She eventually became more passionate about dance — which she also considers a sport — but the ex-Fifth Harmony member says seeing other women athletes of color succeed motivated her to persevere.
“There’s a gymnast named Dominique Dawes that dominated in the Olympic Games,” says the 25-year-old performer. “She really, really inspired me and made me believe I could’ve gone to the Olympics and been as successful as she was. She carried herself with such poise and grace. She was beautiful, and she looked like me, and that’s everything Cracker Jill represents.”
Fresh off the release of her vulnerable and sultry latest single, “Fair,” Normani recorded an updated cover of the iconic baseball classic “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the ad campaign, altering its lyrics to communicate an empowering message for women athletes.
“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jill / No one can stop you if you have the will / So let’s root, root, root for our girl’s dream,” she sings on a pitcher’s mound in the Cracker Jill commercial, released on Wednesday. “We’re adding our face to the game / And we’ll run, throw, with never a doubt / It’s a new ball game.”
Recording a fresh take on such a well-known song was initially nerve-wracking for Normani, but luckily she was able to execute the cover in her own original way. “[‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ is] iconic as-is, so as you can imagine, going into it, yes, I was a little nervous,” says the musician. “But also, I felt comfort in the brand really giving me the reins to do whatever I wanted to do … There’s a little bit of that Normani flare in it, for sure.”
The 90-second commercial also includes clips of women sports figures including tennis player Venus Williams and wrestler Heaven Fitch, among others, and introduces viewers to five limited-edition Cracker Jill snack bags, each featuring a different female athlete illustration.
In the performance scene, Normani wears a white letterman jacket adorned with patches from the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh’s Off-White brand. According to the musician, Abloh’s efforts to provide underrepresented identities with mainstream visibility inspired her to wear one of his designs for the campaign.
Elaborating on Abloh’s impact, Normani cites a quote the designer said during a 2017 interview with W Magazine, which reads, “I’m always trying to prove to my 17-year-old self that I can do creative things I thought weren’t possible.”
“[That quote] really resonated with me,” says Normani. “It’s symbolic of being kind and fighting for that young version of yourself, and standing up and showing up for yourself… I was honored to wear that piece.”
Looking forward, Normani knows her fans are still patiently hoping her long-awaited — three years in the making, to be exact — debut studio album will be released soon. “The wait is going to be worth it,” she teases, before offering up a response to any listeners surprised to receive a “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” cover before her first full-length project: “People that don’t understand it, hopefully they’ll get it later, but the girls that get it, get it.”
Watch Normani sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” below.